When 2+2=3: Trump's trade war with China is puzzling

Admittedly, I am not smart enough to work in Washington and grasp its conventional wisdom on how things should work in that humidity. But I must say this tariff business with China seems rather, uh, unusual, if you haven’t been drinking.


OK, so in an effort to change their behavior, we slap tariffs on some Chinese goods because they’ve not been playing fairly in trade by our standards. That’s quite true. But we can’t fight back like a one-party regime.

Unfair is also actually business as usual in Asia, which often regards the West as inferior. And impatient, like rookies on the world stage. Remember, China’s rulers were trading spices, fabrics and this stuff called paper with Marco Polo back in the 1200’s.

So, China knows trading and soft touches. Take advantage until the U.S. complains. Then nod, yes, we understand. Give in on some meaningless thing like importing aluminum baseball bats.

Then, go ahead just as you were, because Americans’ attention span is quite short and any White House crowd will change in a short time, by Asia standards.

The Obama-ites only lasted 96 months. By comparison, numerous Chinese dynasties with congenital determination spent 22 centuries on one single infrastructure project, the Great China Walls.

Because in Asia, face is more valuable than billions of dollars, China slaps some reciprocal tariffs on U.S. goods in retaliation. Of course, they’re not stupid. They select goods they can buy elsewhere like, oh, say, soybeans. Probably at a discount because Brazil or wherever is so happy for a new customer of China’s scale.


And China picks the products it thinks will exert maximum political pressure on this Washington crowd in an election year like, oh, say, Midwestern farmers.

Farmers are fewer and farther between with every census. But they usually vote Republican and those electoral and House votes add up. So, this administration rushes in with early summer promises of help.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said Monday it would soon release $4.7 billion in aid to offset farmers’ lost export sales. The total is likely to rise to more than $12 billion by year’s end. Great news for farmers.

First of all, where does Washington find these extra piles of $4 billion, $12 billion or $8 billion? That kind of change is just lying around among D.C. monuments? Most likely, that money gets plucked from other programs for Americans, which will now be $4 billion, $12 billion or $8 billion short.

So, down the road those groups will need another $4 billion, $12 billion or $8 billion in government help to make up for their aid lost to aid farmers who lost export sales because we taxed some Chinese goods.

So, in an effort to force China and others to change the way they trade with the U.S., we are forcing them to find alternative — and eager — sources of supplies. We’ve lost those customers and those sales now and likely in the future.


In return we must take $4 billion, $12 billion or $8 billion from somewhere else to pay ourselves $4 billion, $12 billion or $8 billion to help cover the election year losses from a trade fight we started.

You know as well as I do, that in Washington’s upside-down culture, down the road sometime, all this will be pronounced a resounding success.

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